Shallow and materialistic as it may be, I love to go shopping. It makes me happy to buy things for myself, sometimes for others, but especially for myself. There is a thrill in knowing that today just might be the day I find the perfect shoes/dress/bracelet/item-I-didn’t-even-know-I-needed.
Therefore, it hasn’t taken me long to find a few favorite places to go shopping in Seoul. Myeongdong, Seoul’s shopping neighborhood, is wonderful and has some western favorites like Forever 21, H&M, and Zara. However, it is a little far away from my house and, thus, is saved for a true shopping day, where there is a specific item to hunt for. When I am looking for closer to home, “let’s see what’s there” trip, I head straight to Express Bus Terminal. I have mentioned this fabulous place before when I visited the flower market. For a little background information, Express Bus Terminal is a subway stop on Line 3 of the Seoul subway system. This subway stop is named for the bus terminal that is located there; you must exit the subway to enter the bus terminal. The flower market I have previously visited is located within the actual bus terminal. The GOTO shopping mall, is located underground at the subway stop. When people say that they went shopping at “Express Bus Terminal,” they mean the GOTO mall located in the subway lair, not the above ground terminal. I probably just confused everyone; I’m horrible at giving directions.
Anyway, Express Bus Terminal has the best cheap shopping I have found in Korea. There are hundreds of tiny stores crammed in along a long hallway; none of the stores are big enough to contain all their merchandize, so racks and piles of goods entice buyers to stop and look. Most of the stores are very cheap: skirts for ₩10,000, shirts for ₩5,000. There are a variety of styles and stores: from casual t-shirts to chiffon blouses, sparkly Korean shoes, fake designer purses, jewelry, makeup, home goods, and more! There are very few stores for men’s clothing and only a sprinkling of children’s clothes, which is just fine by me.
However, there are two negatives associated with shopping at Express Bus Terminal. One, and this is a big one for me, is that there is no way to try on the clothes. The nice department stores in Korea have tiny, mirrorless closets that you can use, but at here there is nothing. You can hold it up in front of you and pray it fits when you get home. A friend told me that she once tried on a dress by pulling it on over her clothes: frowned upon. I’m not sure if there is a return policy, or how it would work if there is one. All the stores look the same to me; I’m sure I’d never find the store if I were even allowed to return goods. Korean women have a very different style than American women. They prefer to wear large, loose blouses. While I don’t necessarily wear skin-tight shirts everyday, their loose styles seem to look like a large garbage bag on me. It’s very difficult to determine if what an item will look like off the hanger. So, while a shirt may only be ₩10,000, you run the risk of wasting that money if it doesn’t fit.
Another risk is the quality of clothing. At these prices you can’t expect an item to last for years. I have been very pleased with some of the pieces I have seen and bought; I’ve also seen seams that even a novice sewer like me could do better. This, however, is common with most places where you can find cheaper clothing. If you only need an item to last a season or two, then go ahead and get it!
So, though I love visiting the Express Bus Terminal, I am cautious as to what I purchase. It is such a fun, unique shopping experience and I know that I will continue to visit while we are here! Yesterday, a friend and I went there for a little shopping fun. As we were walking to enter the subway we noticed how cloudy and ominous it looked outside. We ducked underground and apparently missed a crazy rain storm! I saw many of my friends in Korea posting pictures and complaining about a torrential downpour. Four hours later, my friend and I reemerged to sunlight and wet roads, no rain. Express Bus Terminal and shopping saved me!